Did You Know...


Wise Owl

Tooth Be Told...
Here are Some Fun-Filled Dental History Facts


The Toothbrush        

During the Middle Ages, wealthy Europeans used twigs made out of sweet-smelling wood to clean their teeth.

In 1498, the Emperor of China implanted hog bristles in a bone handle. This style of hogtoothbrush became popular throughout Asia and Europe. However, because of the cost of hog bristles, poor people could not afford individual toothbrushes, so a whole family would share the same toothbrush.

Believe it or not, most Americans didn't brush their teeth until soldiers brought the Army's enforced brushing habit back home from World War II.

The first real electric toothbrush was developed in Switzerland in 1939.


boy with toothpasteLike toothbrushes, compounds for cleaning teeth and freshening breath have been used since ancient times. Early Egyptians, Chinese, Greek, and Roman writings describe different mixtures for toothpastes and powders. The more tasty ingredients used back then included powdered fruit, honey, and dried flowers. The less appetizing ingredients included mice and lizard livers!

Modern toothpastes began to appear in the 1800s. A dentist named Dr. Peabody was the first person to suggest adding soap to toothpaste.

Fluoride was first added to toothpaste in 1956.

Flossing           Dental Flossophy
People have been cleaning between their teeth for more than 5,000 years. As early as 3500 B.C., the ancient Babylonians used toothpicks to remove food particles from their teeth.            

Dental floss was invented in 1840 by Dr. Levi Parmly, a dentist from New Orleans. Dr. Parmly recommended that patients use a waxed, silken thread passed between their teeth to dislodge food particles that toothbrushes could not reach. 



The Dentist

boy with dentistThe earliest known dentist was Hesi-Re, an Egyptian “doctor of the tooth,” who lived around 3000 B.C.

From the 5th to the 15th century A.D., dentistry was practiced by “barber-surgeons,” who performed a variety of services, including cutting hair and extracting teeth.

In 1846, Dr. William Morton, a dentist born in Charlton, Massachusetts, demonstrated the first use of ether during a surgical procedure at Massachusetts General Hospital, ending the pain that had been associated with surgery.

False Teethfalse teeth

False teeth have been around as early as 700 B.C. when the Etruscans made false teeth out of ivory and bone. Human teeth were once also used for dentures. Poor people would often pull their own teeth and sell them for money. However, this type of denture soon rotted. Rich people preferred teeth of silver, gold, or mother of pearl.

During medieval times, the practice of dentistry was mostly confined to tooth extractions. Replacing lost or decayed teeth was seldom considered. Gaps between teeth were expected, even among the rich. In the 1500s, Queen Elizabeth I filled the holes in her mouth with cloth to improve her appearance in public.

Hundreds of years ago, when false teeth were placed in the mouth, they were hand-carved and then tied in place with thread. If a person didn't have enough natural teeth remaining, anchoring false teeth was very hard. People who had full sets of dentures had to remove them when they wanted to eat.

Paul Revere, most remembered for his "midnight ride," was a metalworker by trade who constructed dentures from gold and ivory. Even George Washington suffered from tooth loss and ill-fitting dentures. The first president of the United States had dentures made of metal and carved ivory, or metal and carved cow's teeth—but never made out of wood.

In 1839, Charles Goodyear discovered vulcanized rubber, which could be molded to fit the mouth and made a good base to hold false teeth. Dentures could now be made comfortable and at an affordable fee.

Today dentures are either plastic or ceramic.

Orthodontics  boy with toothbrush and braces

Although teeth-straightening has been practiced since early times, orthodontics as a science did not exist until the 1880s.

Pierre Fauchard, a French surgeon who is also known as the "father of modern dentistry," is credited with advances in orthodontics due to his publication in 1728, The Surgeon Dentist, which devoted an entire chapter to tooth irregularities and ways to correct them.

Today, advances in orthodontics have come a long way. Some orthodontic appliances are removable and braces are less noticeable.

Dental Fillings
toothbrushCavities in teeth have been filled since the earliest of times with a variety of different materials including gum, stone chips, and even turpentine resin!

French dentists were the first to mix mercury with various other metals and plug the mixture into cavities in teeth.



On February 20, 1872, Silas Noble and J.P. Cooley of Granville, Massachusetts, patented the first toothpick manufacturing machine.


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